Thursday, June 29, 2006

Quick Muse

I heard this site mentioned on the BBC. Well known poets are given a piece of prose to read and 15 minutes in real time to compose a poem. You can watch the poem evolve as it's written, or play the whole 15 minutes back later. I've not had time to look at the results in depth, but I heard the latest poem on the radio, and it sounded incredibly good for 15 minutes work. This is the site

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Finger licking bad!

DIY on the shed was a reasonable success apart from the fact that I sawed my left thumb. The saw tooth broke completely through the nail so there was blood everywhere. I ran it under the tap and today it is better, although still a bit tender, but it wasn't as bad as the time I drop the iron on my big toe, that bled under the nail, and was one of the most painful things I've ever done to myself. I ended up having to go to casualty on a Saturday night, where they cauterised the nail, to let the blood spurt out, by heating up a paper clip in a flame 'til it glowed red and then plunging it through the nail!

Needless to say 6 student nurses got to watch, while the senior nurse told them it was one of her favourite procedures!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Blackbirds have flown the nest

Came back from my trip to find they had fledged. I had a peep at them on Friday before I left and they looked like they'd gone fairly soon. So I've taken out the old broken window and fitted the new piece of "glass". It's a bit of a Heath Robinson affair, but it will keep the wild life out, and today I'm going to buy some timber to make a better job of it.
I also called the council on their extortionate "premium line" and arranged for them to pick up the old frame and some other bits of rubbish out of the shed.

The weekend was good, though hard work. My friend B really enjoyed the experience and the peace. On Saturday night, after work, we walked the coastal path to Dunottar Castle, it was magical, sea, cliffs and the castle. It was light 'til almost midnight, and the sun then rose again at 3.00am.

Heard from my friend in Canada, she is one of a group of women I got to know when I was first diagnosed with cancer, we all used the same information/support site.
I'm still in touch with a few of these women - although it's like other tough situations in life, when you deal with something really difficult it is often hard not to associate the person with the bad time and sometimes it becomes easier for all concerned not continue certain friendship - especially as we all seem to recover our equilibrium at different rates.

Anyway Joanne is dealing with her cancer for a third time, this is her blog

She's hoping to come over here in the autumn, after chemo. I hope she makes it as it would be really great to see her.

Better get lunch and then off to the DIY store.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Am I the only only who can't stand Gordon Brown?

I promised I wouldn't get political on this blog. But the New Labour leadership thing is really annoying me. It strikes me that GB will say whatever it takes to get the PM job. I wonder if he made yesterday's speech with his fingers crossed behind his back. If he's got to be a clone of Tony before Tony will stand aside what's the point - you might as well have the real one! At least that way they'd get slaughtered at the polls. Though who else one would vote for God alone knows.

I'm so scunnered with New Labour,those of us who lived through Thatcherism in all its awful glory had such hopes for this shower, but they have disaapointed at every turn. They simply cannot deliver on anything, other than low inflation, which is down to the Bank of England anyway, and is only supported by the fact that everyone lives on tick. They've just tinkered at the margins. I truly think that we've entered a phase in this country where there's actually nobody left who knows how to govern. They must think we're stupid with their targets and sound bite solutions. Life is incredibly complex, sometimes I wish they would just admit that.

Phew that feels better!!

N. is back from her trip to the islands of the west coast. Her brother is over from Spain and they took off for a few days. The crossing was awful as we've had really high winds these last few days. But I think speaking in Spanish has done her good, I think it must be very hard to think in a second language all the time, especially when your dealing with life and death issues. She's in no pain just now, but goes back to hospital next month for another MRI to see what the spinal tumour is up to.

I'm getting ready to go away tomorrow, so much to check, working gear, boots etc and camera equipment, memory cards to clear, batteries to charge etc, and food to buy and prepare, hay fever tablets to remember.......... At least the forecast is better for the weekend.

I also posted off my test calibration shots to the plant photographic library so I hope they will display well on their monitors. I really need a much more expensive LCD monitor, but I can't afford it just now.

Better get on I've lots to do.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Got an e-mail last night from my friend in Skye, she can't do our weekend of voluteer work at the castle garden as her car exhaust has blown and she needs to save cash to fix it. Petrol prices are really taking a toll on peoples lives now, especially somewhere like Scotland where you simply have to travel to go anywhere.
It's impossible to get to the castle grounds quickly and easily by train and bus, especially with all the gear you need, boots/waterproofs etc, etc. And the time it would take would make a weekend trip pointlesss.Anyway my local friend and I will still go up and we'll share a car and the petrol costs. I'm cooking on the Friday night and we'll get a pub meal on Saturday night, and drive home on Sunday evening.

Head Gardener's e-mailed to say we are planting out bedding plants in the 19th century garden, amongst other things. This means we're working in the walled rose garden, which should be in full bloom. I just hope it stays dry.

This is the castle pond in May

Monday, June 19, 2006


My son actually managed to speak a few whole sentences to me yesterday, nothing complimentary just a rant about "Why hadn't I reminded him that it was Father's Day?"
I reminded him that he was the one with the most brain cells in this house and that the media had been busily reminding everyone for weeks. His Dad didn't appear to mind as he'd forgotten his Dad too, so it's obviously a genetic condition on the paternal side, which is fine by me.

My Dad died last year, so short of raising a glass to him, which is what he would have most appreciated had he still been here, there wasn't much to be done.

I read a great article in one of the Scottish Sundays yesterday about Thomas Fraser, a Shetland islander who loved country music, and way back in the 1950s made reel to reel recordings of himself singing and playing guitar. His grandson found the tapes long after his death and the BBC helped to remaster them on to CD. The results have met with critical acclaim and you can listen to MP3 samples on line. I was amazed at how the tracks instantly loaded into i-tunes. Made me think how he was using the cutting edge technology of his day to get tracks down for no-one other than himself, and how at that time distance and isolation meant even more of a lack of opportunity, and that lack of access to technology today means that sections of the community are missing out on further opportunities.

The Thomas Fraser website is here.

And since were talking of recording in your bedroom I listened to Sandi Thom's "I wish I was a punk rocker" song at the weekend and I just found it sad. Kids shouldn't be getting nostalgic about their parents era, their job is to actively rebel against it. I wonder if she really wrote the song, it sounds more like the pathetic ramblings of some middle aged bloke whose dribbling into his beer in the pub.
We were neither hippies nor punk rockers, we were sandwiched in between in the "Glam Rock" era, although Rod Stewart in his "Every Picture Tells a Story" phase was really wonderful, and I did see Crosby Still, Nash and Young and The Band at Wembley in 1973, and they were still pretty hippish. But there was a lot of dross in the charts, although jobs were plentiful, we were out on strike most weeks, and we had the truly incredible summer of 1976 and then along came Thatcher and the darkness descended. No not the band.........

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Why blog?
It keeps me from doing all the things I could/should be doing. And just because.....

What annoys you about blogs?

Surfing blogs and coming across ones that won’t let you go to the next one without hitting the back key.

Who reads your blog?
Who knows, not many given the comments that are left, and I haven’t figured out how to add a counter thingy yet.

What do you like about blogs?
They’re quiet, people give you their views without clogging the High Street and shouting at you.

I love the range, from niche issues, like the guy I came across who just grows and photographs staghorn ferns, to all the politico shock jocks and everything in between.
Also the number of women using to just state how bloody hard it is to raise kids and hold down a job and have a sliver of life to yourself.

What have you learnt from blogs?
That we’re all more similar than different. That some people excel even at blogging. That there’s a hierachy of blogs, and on the very successful ones people don’t feel obliged to acknowledge their audience.

That people love to engage in the soap opera of other people’s lives, and that humour and the English language are both wonderful things.

That eccentricity and idiosyncrasy are fabulous traits to have.

That Postcard Secrets is a brilliant formula, I love looking at the new crop each Sunday.

What do you wish you could get from blogs?

Wish I could read foreign language ones better. Especially those one that must be in Chinese that just come up as wee boxes.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Blogging and work and the Queen's birthday honours

Interesting article in yesterday's Glasgow Herald about how blogging is the current area of concern re employees accessing the internet, apparently its taken over from accessing the wrong type of website at work and abusing e-mail. Indeed some employees blogs included less than flattering material about their employers and/or bosses. One blog in the States, written by an air stewardess (is that the pc name?), was ostensibly about a fictitious airline, the only problem being that the blogger posted a picture of herself in her Delta airlines uniform - oops!

The article also said that in the UK 80,000 blogs a week are being created - no wonder the the system is creaking then! I think the World Cup is also be having a bearing on the net at the mo, loads of people busily uploading pictures with captions like "and this is me vomiting at the Reich Stag!"

I won't go into the merits of the Queen's Birthday honours, other than to say it strikes me as odd to get all hot under the collar about global warming and then knight the head of a low cost airline. But the best laugh I had was my husband's response to the honour for the 96 year old Welsh chip shop owner, who has been selling fish and chips for 68 years. How laudable! All my husband said was "I hope she's changed the fat!" Which made me spit laugh over my morning tea. Here's the BBC link

Friday, June 16, 2006

Bottle brush plant

Walked into the greenhouse this morning to find my bottle brush plant is in bloom.
I bought it as a twig at a jumble sale years ago, and its got bigger and bigger, but hasn't ever flowered. Well it's making up for it now, beautiful fuzzy red flowers all over it, just like bottle brushes. I've read that in Oz the kangaroos nibble off the ends which encourages them to flower, but this could just be a fairy story. "What that Skippy, let it flower and then dead-head it? And there are two more Sheilas down the mineshaft?"

Also my grapes are really swelling. The rootstock goes out under the greenhouse foundations, so it must have picked up a lot of water during the heavy rain last weekend. There are wee seedling plants in the floor, where the odd grape must have fallen, they won't "come true" but I'll pot a few up and let friends have them. Figs are also doing well. And outside the roses are in full bloom, Albertine is an old climber, one flush only, but it has a fantastic perfume, and Silver Jubilee, which is a shrub rose that my girlfriends gave me for my silver wedding annivesary, are both out. But my real favourite is Buff Beauty, a climber that comes in pale yellow and fades to ivory. I grew several plants from 12 inch cuttings taken from the big garden that I support and they run all along one wall of the garden.

I also like species roses, especially Rosa Glauca, which as the name suggests has lovely blue tinted leaves, and a pretty single pink flower.

June is like the height of a firework display, hard to know where to look next.

Today I'm looking after my friend's dog. She and my dog adore each other so it's no trouble. N works in the cancer research charity shop on a Friday. She stopped while she was in a lot of pain, but her spine has settled and for the moment she's pain free, so she's going in to do half a day as they are short of helpers. She loves it anyway as she gets first chance to buy all the new things that come in. Currently she sporting a very smart designer label summer mac.

I'm trying to burn CDs of RAW format photo files to free up space on my dedicated hard drive. I hate doing it as it means fiddling about with the burner, and cataloguing files etc, but I have to get some more space. I also want to put a test submission into the plant library I submit to, to see if the new colour calibration on my monitor accords with theirs - I'm using the same system so it should. Then I can submit more files. I'd really like to buy a better monitor, one that's designed for photography/design, but can't afford it right now.

I got the link for the website that I did the holiday house interior shots for. It looks really good, the designer has even used one of my shots, of narcissi on a mantlepiece, as the masthead for the site. They've already had bookings, and those people have booked return trips, so it seems to be working out for my friends.

I really believe in paying things forward, it's the only way to make a difference in this word. It's amazing how often things you think are easy turn out to be something that someone else needs done, but hasn't a clue how to go about it. Sorry that sounds really cheesy, but when I used to drive to work I'd play a game of letting other cars out of side streets, and then watch to see if they'd let other people out, and it felt like I was spreading a little sanity each morning - and probably making myself 5 minutes late for work, but what the hell........

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Something weird going on

My posts are going into June archive but not displaying on my page. It seems a common problem, with no fix in sight.

Further reading suggests that if you log off the net and log on again you might hit a different server and then the page will load. This seemed to work, and things seem back to normal now. Just upgraded Norton, and it seems to clear out temp files regularly, so maybe that has an effect, as I log on to blog through a saved link.
Who knows, certainly not me as I'm technically challenged.

Today I'm a lady who lunches

Meeting an old work colleague, and picking up two birthday presents which didn't get to me in March - yay delayed gratification!

I've just bummed about this week, but it's been good as I'm feeling pretty tired. The night before it rained and every joint in my body ached like toothache, think I'm turning into an old dousing stick, lol!
Next week I go north again to do some more voluntary work at the estate garden. This time a friend is travelling with me, and another friend is coming over from Skye to join us. They're both 6ft so I'll be the wee piggy in the middle.

Also agreed to photograph the baby of a friend of a friend, so that will be fun. She's making a donation to my pal's marathon fund. They ran the race on Sunday and raised £5k for a palliative cancer care charity.

Better get moving, got to walk the dog before I go.

I took this yesterday,a whole field of ox-eye daisies.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Peaceful day

Golf is now in full swing for the men of this household, so I had a very peaceful morning. I listened to BBC Radio 4's BH in bed, then got up and had breakfast, which was a weird collection of things I fancied in the fridge, mostly smoked mackerel which I love. Then I went into the garden in my PJs. It's a favourite summer thing of mine to potter around watering and weeding in my jammies. The garden isn't overlooked, and frankly even if it was I wouldn't care.

My cut and come again lettuce is almost ready for a first picking - much better than the limp stuff in plastic pokes that the supermarket sells, and cheaper to boot. The basil is looking good too.

Yesterday's workshop was good, I met a nice woman from Dumfries who had come up 'specially. We collaborated on a few things, and worked well together. The theme was RLS' "Jeckyll and Hyde"

I learned a few general writing tips from Debs, though I'll never be a fantasy writer. Even as a kid I always liked real life stories, or massive reference books. And nowadays I find real life scary, strange and crazy enough.

I borrowed her copy of The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler, which explores the mythic structures of stories. Basically deconstructing famous stories and filmscripts to identify their shared patterns. It's interesting, but there's a lot of padding in it, it could probably be condensed without suffering all that much. I bet he updates it to include the Da Vinci Code at some point - another book/film I've no desire to see or read. I must be one of the few, add that to my ignorance of Harry Potter and I'm latter day cultural outcast.

I really loved Linda Smith when she said she wanted to batter all the adult Harry Potter readers on the Tube, and to hand them out copies of Jane Austen. Still miss her, keep expecting her voice to pop out of the radio with some really witty observation on life, or the state of the nation.
The news is so lousy I really feel like putting my head in the fire bucket. The World Cup is the only upbeat note, all those mad souls kicking every ball with their team. I loved the Mexicans today, they were having a ball. Main debate here is whether it's still pc not to support England. In my time I've gone for the everyone but England option, but these days I can't muster the energy to care. I do hope the experience brings them some pleasure, Lord knows they could all do with it. It seems to me England gets the bad end of the stick these days, Westminster's eegits, water shortages, post code prescibing etc, etc - they're due a break. Just don't shove it down our throats for 40 years, that's all I ask! I doubt they'll pull it off anyway.
We Scots can relax, we got the pain out the way early. Come on Trinidad and Tobago!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Weather's been too good to post

We had three straight days of summer and it's been wonderful. The days are so long it's hardly dark.

I just love this time of year, you feel like you have to bank these days to keep the soul warm in winter. I can almost see plants growing before my eyes. My bean plants are doing well, no sign of slug/snail damage, which is probably a tribute to the work of the garden's resident thrush. She has a "anvil" stone by one of the paths, and it is littered with cracked shells.

One baby blackbird has hatched in the nest on the lectern. I'm feeding the Mum cherries from my fruit bowl. I feel for her stuck in that hot, dry shed.

The writers' group concert/readings went well. The second night was packed, and I had more confidence by then. I even did an extra poem at the end of the evening. A local published poet came up to me at then end and said he'd enjoyed my pieces, which was very rewarding. I'm doing a writers' workshop tomorrow, which is being run by a friend who is a published novelist - I think she's on her 6th book just now. Should be fun. This is her webpage Deborah J Miller

I got new software to colour calibrate my pc monitor. Took me a while to work it all out, switching of virus protection temporarily and removing the old calibration programme. But the test image on the newly calibrated screen looks great, especially the skin tones. I've been editing pictures of too skinny women runners in a recent road race that I covered. The skinnest one always wins, but some of these girls are just far too thin to be truly healthy.

Better run myself, lots to do.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Art in the Arctic

Last night I watched the BBC 2 programme on the capefarewell project. I absolutely loved it. They sent a boat load of artists to Spitsbergen island in the Acrtic, and gave them free rein to interpret the place. The film followed their efforts. The piece I liked the most was the guy who projected pieces of poetry about the Arctic directly on to the massive walls of a glacier. I also liked the piece where they made a "lens" from a slab of glacial ice and photographed the sun coming through it, and the effects of flashlight through it at night.

But the sound artist was fascinating, he recorded the whip of the wind in ropes, long coiled skipping ropes, and the haunting sound of seals "talking" to each other under the icy water. They all said that the place was unique and that it was hard to interpret as one loses all sense of space and perspective.

Just a brilliant programme. Shame none of the exhibitions are coming north of the border, looks like it had English Art Council funding.

Marilyn Monroe would have been 80 today. The radio is doing one of these pointless "what if?" type things. Bet they do it again in 2016 and the biggy will be in 2026. I wonder if Joe's flowers still get delivered? There, I'm doing it too....